Are you prepared? Family get-togethers can often be stressful. Add in the needs of a child who may be physically, mentally or emotionally challenged, and the results may not be the warm, hospitable event each person envisioned. There are ways to prepare; in the next few weeks, I will be sharing ideas. Since every person is different and each family unique, these are meant as suggestions—take what fits and discard the rest—but give some a try.
First, remember that children are full of energy and enthusiasm. Rarely will a young child be so enthralled that their attention is captivated for longer than their age in minutes. Two minutes for a two-year-old is a long time.
- If a child is wiggly or over-exuberant, try a distraction. Let them be a part of the celebration by carrying cards, treats or favors to each person attending. Most children feel special when they are included whether that means stirring the cake batter or licking the spoon; keep them involved as much as possible.
- If there is an older cousin who is happy to entertain a younger child, this is also helpful.
- Provide toys, games, puzzles, movies on a personal screen, etc.
- Set up a craft table in a quiet room with easy to make decorations or cards. Be sure an adult or teen is there to supervise.
Many children are sensitive to noise, lighting, textures, crowding and body traffic. This has to do with the way a person perceives the world. What is tolerable for one may be overwhelming for another. Strobe lights or flashing tree lights may lead to seizures or what appears to be tantrums. Crowding can cause panic attacks. Try:
- Providing a quiet, peaceful area and a volunteer (secured ahead of time) to channel any child who may be feeling stress due to high levels of noise, visual stimulation and the crush of people.
- Share with other family and friends the needs of your child. He or she is not misbehaving, they are responding according to their personal receptors.
- Prepare your child ahead of time for what may be encountered and what he can do if he becomes overwhelmed. Tell him about the quiet space and person who will be with him.
- Avoid embarrassing host or child by over sensitivity to those who are not aware of your child’s limits. Take them aside and quietly explain what is actually happening and how they can help.
Parents, remember: Although you know and accept your child’s behavior, others may need to be educated. Patience and kindness is needed by all!